Each example in the book illustrates different ways in which one can get on the path towards achieving great character:
1. From Dwight Eisenhower we learn the lesson of self-defeat. How to recognize your key weakness and turn it into your strength.
2. From Dorothy Day we learn how to make use of suffering. How to take the bad things that happen and turn them into a transcendent purpose.
3. From Phillip Randolph we learn the power of dignity. How to adopt a controlled, self respecting style of life so that nothing can humiliate you.
4. From Frances Perkins we learn about the call within the call. After you’ve been in a career for a bit, something can happen to turn it into a calling. You no longer do it for the money or the status. You quiet the self and simply try to achieve excellence in your work.
5. From George Eliot we learn the power of second love. This is the love that comes later in life, often after marriage, which has the effect of steadying the heart and binding a life to another.
6. From George Marshall we learn the power of service to an organization. Marshall was an unimpressive boy who learned proper conduct by dedicating himself to the Army.
7. From Bayard Rustin we learn the power of leading with self-restraint. He was an early civil rights leader who learned to put himself in the background for the good of the cause.
8. From Samuel Johnson we learn the virtue of radical honesty. He was a miserable young man who built himself to greatness through intellectual effort.
9. From Montaigne we learn self-acceptance. He looked deep inside himself and delighted in what he found there.
10. From Augustine we learn how to move from ambition to meaning. He was a successful but unhappy young man who changed his life to experience joy.